Fiche Bliain ag Fás (Twenty Years a-growing) by Louise Mackey

I have admittedly stolen the title of this blog from Muiris Ó Súilleabháin’s most famous memoir, despite the fact that I have never read it.  However, I do consider the playful title quite novel and completely apt at this moment in time.

I grew at an accelerated rate all throughout my childhood.  My first Holy Communion photos consisted of Father Woods, my local priest, and I standing tall amongst the other, much cuter and shorter, kids.  It seems this has seriously impacted my adult judgement as I am now completely delusional about my height with notions that I am still tall.  Now, I am by no means short at 5ft 5.5 inches but believe me when I say I have not grown since I was 8 years old and that I will consider it a grave insult if you challenge me on that last half inch! Thankfully my shoe size stopped at size 8 too, it has been exactly one day since I have been called big foot..note to self never go bowling with 30 peers again!  However, my rushed and abrupt physical growth was merely a droplet in the pool of growth which I, and indeed all of us, must undergo in life.

We as humans are no different to plants when it comes to growth.  We need nutrition, care and an atmosphere uninhibited by threats or hostilities.  We all experience periods in our life where we face such difficulties and we stop growing because, to be frank, keeping the weeds from engulfing us is a challenge in itself.  I have no doubt that these periods are inevitable and maybe even beneficial.  My own personal challenges have made me stronger, more empathetic, more ambitious and most importantly more aware of how blessed I am to have my family and friends back home.  I write this not off the cuff but with a lump in my throat because I know that it is the environment that you all have created for me which has made me capable of forming deep roots that will not wilt.

Humans like plants also grow under the influence of stimuli.  WIP has acted as a stimulus in my growth as an individual and DC is providing a perfect climate and fertile ground (who would have thought sweltering heat and metro rail lines were what I needed?).  Speakers such as Jake Sullivan have inspired me to focus on how I can improve myself, how I can grow.  In just two weeks I can genuinely feel myself developing, building on the roots which my family and friends have supported for so long.  I have no doubt that when I return to Ireland I will not be finished growing however I can feel myself breaking through the soil’s surface.  Somehow, despite my doubting tendencies, I am confident that my next 20 years of growth will result in great things.


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